John Needham is the new global head of “League of Legends'” professional esports league, Riot Games announced on Wednesday.
As part of his new role, Needham will lead development of major LoL Esports events like The World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and the All-Star Event. He will also help increase the impact of regional leagues.
“League of Legends” currently boasts one of the biggest esports scenes around. There are about 800 professional players spread amongst 100 teams throughout its various leagues, Riot said. Last year’s World Championship gained an estimated 99.6 million unique viewers during the Finals, while viewership for the regular season averaged about 90 million hours week-over-week worldwide.
“We are currently in the middle of our ninth season with ‘League of Legends’ esports, and when we look at the timelines under which traditional sports have evolved, over many decades if not centuries, we’re extremely bullish on what we’re creating,” said Needham. “At Riot Games, we believe that we’re well ahead of the curve and that esports are still only in their infancy. With player experience guiding us as it does all of Riot, we are building a global, sustainable ecosystem for players, teams, partners, and fans alike. We’re honored to be considered leaders in the esports space and believe it’s part of our responsibility to help shepherd it forward by
investing in the right ideas, events, and structure to help this sport reach its full potential.”
Needham joined Riot in 2017 and most recently served as the managing director of Europe and North America. During his time in that position, he oversaw the rebranding of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), which recently moved to a long-term partnership model with 10 teams. It also brought in new sponsors like Kia, Logitech, Red Bull, and Foot Locker. Before joining Riot, Needham worked for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Cryptic Studios, and Xbox.
The current co-heads of LoL Esports, Jarred Kennedy and Whalen Rozelle, will reportedly remain at Riot in new leadership positions. Kennedy will now lead a division focused on building and operating new businesses for the company, as well as spearhead its strategic partnerships. Rozelle, meanwhile, will lead new esports initiatives across the organization.